Dehydration: Recognising, Avoiding and Treating Dehydration
Coping with Dehydration in Qatar
Water and Dehydration
If there is magic on this planet, it is contained in water.
Loran Eisely, The Immense Journey, 1957
Two thirds of our body is formed of water. In a temperate climate like the UK we lose two and a half litres of the stuff a day. In a hot country like Qatar, where temperatures can soar to 50 Celsius, you can lose a lot more, and dehydration can quickly set in.
Causes of dehydration
Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun
Dehydration is caused by a loss of fluid and electrolytes such as sodium and potassium. This is in turn can be caused by excessive sweating or exposure to sun. Any diarrhea or vomiting could also lead to dehydration.
Some Westerners may be more susceptible to dehydration than locals as we often enjoy sunbathing, drink alcohol and may have a low salt intake and, as Noel Coward noticed, go out in the midday sun.
Symptoms of dehydration
Symptoms can include dark urine or an inability to urinate, a dry or sticky mouth, tiredness and weakness, headaches, and dizziness. Thirst is not always a reliable indicator of dehydration.
If you suffer extreme thirst, confusion, shrivelled skin, sunken eyes, dizziness or do not urinate for more than eight hours you should seek medical attention.
Drinking sufficient water is, of course, vital, and if you are from a cold country you will definitely need to drink more. Look to drink more again if you are outside, and take plenty of water on trips. You could also eat fruits and vegetables that are high in water content such as water melons.
Drinking lots of water is not enough to prevent dehydration. Westerners from cold countries, used to being lectured about their salt intake, may actually need to have more salt.
If you are going to drink alcohol, exercise outside or fast, consider taking oral rehydration fluids. (Mayoclinic.com even recommends rehydrating a day before strenuous exercise.) You can also buy special drinks to help prevent dehydration.
Reduce alcohol and caffeine drinks or drink rehydration fluid prior to drinking alcohol.
Try to avoid going out in the hottest times of the day.
If you do go out in the sun, try to stay in the shade. Wear a wide brimmed hat to protect keep the sun out of your face, and lightly coloured, loose-fitting clothes.
Treating dehydrationMild dehydration
Drinking water alone, although extremely important, is not sufficient to treat dehydration. In fact, if you drink too much water, you can lower your blood sodium level. This can be fatal.
Personally, when I suffer from dehydration, I take rehydration fluids. These can be bought in powder form from any chemist (and often in a ready mixed form) it might be a good idea to keep them on hand, especially if fasting.
One of the causes of dehydration is a loss of sodium, so taking a pinch of salt can help treat it. Fruit juices, soft fruits and vegetables will also help you to replace potassium. Dates, which are traditionally used to break fasts alongside a sip of water, are particularly high in potassium.
Severe dehydration will require hospital treatment.